Seven Months From Now...Destination: Baja Sur California, MEXICO

30 May 2018

Las Playitas, Baja California Sur

If you’re curious about what a workshop at Taller de Terreno might be like, imagine this scenario: 

Waking up your first morning in Baja, you open your eyes and turn your head to glimpse outside your B&B window bright cerulean blue, cloudless skies and an ocean-horizon line edged with palms + cactus. Somewhere a dog is barking, roosters are crowing and you feel the pulse of that Pacific pounding. Bienvenido a Todos Santos!

You’re due at La Esquina by 8:30, so why not head there early for some huevos rancheros, cafécita and fresh-squeezed jugo de naranja? Free WiFi means a great chance to post a few pics of the drive up from Cabo while having desayuno, and the rumor is that TDT asks you to “unplug” (the rumor is true!). Part of the TDT experience is, after all, to get back in touch with nature. There will be plenty of time to catch up with Instagram later, after a physical day of arranging bricks, making pots, exploring the desert and beaches, and of course, eating tacos and sampling a few local Mezcals! 

La Esquina is already hopping by 7:30am. Mexicans, Gringos, Euros, they’re all here milling about with colorful terra-cotta mugs and cell phones in hand. Counter service offers you the chance to quietly observe an entertaining line-up of local characters chatting comfortably with one another at the often-shared round tables. You opt for the gluten-free pancakes (con blueberries, of course) and settle down to deal with a few emails. (Buh-bye email after today, mañana you’ve forgotten it exists.) At 8:30 the TDT jittany arrives and you pile on-board with your seven, kiln-building cohorts. 

The 5-mile ride to Taller de Terreno is the perfect way to wean off that Internet. Who can look at the phone when the scenery steals the show like this? Ocean for miles, and only one long beach road to travel. You bounce along, the washboard road being impressively wide, yet unpaved. The only traffic you encounter along the way is a small but stubborn group of cows who refuse to give up their piece of the camino. The jittany nudges its way gently through, and the cows go back to their chewing on dusty green scrub. 

Just before 9am, this desert rig on which you’ve been perched (you chose the flip-down back seats for the adventure of it) pulls in through a rammed earth and steel gated entrada and makes its way down the driveway. The view catches you off-guard: a dramatic landscape of ocean, desert and the show-stopping Sierra Laguna Mountain range. Here in perfect view is what the indigenous people have named The Sleeping Giant. It’s easy to see how he sleeps. This tropical desert scene is muy tranquil, the town of Todos Santos visible as a neat line of low buildings just on the other side of the vast dessert-arroyo, with not much else in between but a few farm houses.

The morning flies by you in a palette of beige, brown, and blue. Bricks, plans, tools, demonstrations…and all of this without a computer or your iPhone. You can hardly believe it’s lunchtime already, and if it weren’t for that tempting scent of simmering garlic, fish and poblano peppers coming from the cocina, you might have even forgotten your stomach! And having cruised past a few farms on the way in this morning, you realize that most of what you’re about to eat is actually grown — and caught — locally. Everyone stops to take a break and enjoy the ocean view for a while. Talk begins about what’s going on in town tonight. Someone’s heard about an open-mic night at a new little cantina with great outdoor tables. (Later in the week you realize that all the bars and restaurants have outside seating — what’s surprising is when they have an actual concrete ceiling overhead!)

After lunch the class gets back to work. The new kiln site is tucked within the terrain in such a way that, like the other buildings at TDT, it can’t be easily seen. TDT aspires to integrate its structures into the landscape so that they seem to grow there, rather than intrude upon the natural environment. Cast-concrete and compacted earth walls emerge from rocky dips and rises of the desert terrain. Rooftops are weather-proofed and landscaped with living desert gardens. The entire rancho is solar-powered with grey-water collection for agricultural use. A walk around the grounds is more like a hike, with 7 acres of densely packed cactus and thorny brush, torote trees, rabbits, rocks. 

A little later on, you decide to venture off into the arroyo to hunt for bones, first memorizing your orientation in relation to the orange roofline of the only neighbor in sight. With the ocean, mountains, and that rooftop in your mind’s eye, you pick your way down the cow path into the mystery of the sandy dry-river bed. A cowbell is faintly ringing somewhere, coming closer or maybe only brought closer by the ocean breeze. When you rejoin the group at the kiln site, you take a turn at the brick saw and impress yourself with your steady hand — your focus is better than usual, you notice.

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By mid-afternoon the urge to take a siesta is curbed only by TDT’s intervention in the form of bliss-inducing brownies AND blondies from local favorite café and pastería, Taller 17. Coffee or afternoon tea is a favorite of both Tallers! Once revived, you finish out the workshop day watching Maestro Doug Casebeer move clay on the potter’s wheel with a familiarity that inspires you to practice. 

At 4:30 an optional invitation is extended to anyone who wants to relax with a quick swim in the lap pool before heading back to the drop-off point at La Esquina. By 5:30 or 6, the night is yours to wander the pueblo magíco of Todos Santos. Some of the class group together to find the perfect dinner spot to taste the local pollo con molé y tortillas de maiz. You join them for that and the open mic performances afterwards — luckily nights end early in this town and you are cozied up in your B&B before midnight. After all, mañana is another day, and at the weekend there’s opportunities for yoga, horseback riding, ATV off-roading, beach-combing, more desert treks, and of course pottery to make…

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GO GO GO! Taller de Terreno + Indiegogo = success!

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Kevin + I would like to thank you all for the many ways you've shown your support for our latest adventure, Taller de Terreno Arts + Wellness Center, located in Baja Sur California, Mexico. As we wrap up the final details of our life in the US (fragile ceramics, heavy equipment, 8' tall sculpture), we both stop occasionally to share news about friends who've gotten in touch to congratulate us, or neighbors who've reached out about visiting us in Todos Santos. 

It is rewarding to read the statistics provided to us by Indiegogo at the close of our campaign, and in case you're curious to know what dreams you've helped to realize, here's the overview:

172 backers collectively raised $26,515 in 30 days! Incredible!

The majority of you were reached through direct contact (my email list) and the other half came in through (a tie) Facebook and Instagram. 

We had contributors from the United States, Israel, Spain, Mexico, The United Kingdom, Canada, Greece, and Malaysia ~ fantastic!

Our most popular incentive prize was (my own original) ceramic art. Thanks for the enthusiasm, old friends + new! Meals Scholarships for Locals was the next most popular incentive gift, followed closely by "kiln love": silicon carbide shelves, bricks + wood storage container sponsorship for our upcoming kiln construction project.

We put your contributions right to work, and last week our "new" used shipping container arrived in Emeryville. Now that we've filled it with our handmade furniture + other artwork, it's ready for pickup + the big move south of the border. This 20' container will be used to keep our wood pile protected from critters, fire + weather, and when not in use for wood storage will be converted into additional shop space. 

Finally, those that picked full value vouchers + workshop tuition as their gifts will be welcome to contact us as soon as they are thinking about visiting (post-grand opening, Spring 2019). We'll be happy to help you find a course that inspires you to unplug from your devices and plug into your creativity. 

Thank you, muchas gracias again to all for your loving support. We await your visit! 

xox love from christa

I never knew how much I loved animals...especially horses!

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!Nunca supe cuánto amo a los animales ... ¡especialmente a los caballos!

I never knew how much I loved animals (especially horses!) until I moved to Baja Sur. I did once go to horse camp as a kid ~ in the second grade, a Methodist church camp ~ and I did fall for my assigned horse, Stormy, the biggest (since I was the tallest girl) and only black horse they had there ...

And I did, in fact, get corralled by my Uncle Fred + Aunt Kay into getting on a horse that hadn't been ridden in YEARS at their Pennsylvania farm a few summers later. That wasn't a very smart idea on someone's part. I was quickly bucked off the poor nervous animal, who threw me into a hardened cornfield after dragging me along on it's side a few too many strides when it bolted.

Yeah yeah yeah, I got back on it for that symbolic moment that finally satisfied my Aunt and Uncle ~ but that was it for me and horses for a while, especially when I next discovered rocketships, and after that, ceramics. Who has the time or money to keep a horse, let alone ride and groom it properly, anyway?

Now on my morning walk around Todos Santos's outer villages I find a menagerie of breathtakingly somber horses standing tied to trees along the dusty and often garbage-heaped streets. I can't bear seeing them confined on short leads in abandoned lots with almost no vegetation, certainly no water, and no shade cover for hours ~ for some, days. All this in the dead of summer in the desert heat of Mexico?

Now I take my morning walk with bags of watermelon scraps and cantaloupe rinds, carrots, and apples. I look for as many tied-up horses as I can find in an hour, spreading the fruitarian love around the neighborhood. So far, I've met Estrella (Star), her mother Fresa (Strawberry) who's expecting another foal this Christmas, I can hardly wait!), Amigo (Friend), and another lovely unkempt brown horse who, I'm told, doesn't have a name. The one I love the most is a creamy white, also unnamed. I've named her Leche (Milk) and she whinnies now when she sees me coming. It makes me tear up every time! Now I've learned from mi vecina (thanks to my beginner Español class, that Leche is actually an identical TWIN! I was shocked! So now I have no idea if I've bonded with uno o dos caballos blancos, so just in case, I've named the second girl, "con Leche" (with Milk). It would be a Christmas miracle (Santa, are you listening?) if I could acquire Leche-con-Leche both para nuestro futuro rancho...a gal can dream, right?

It wasn't in our original plan to have horses at Taller de Terreno (Field Workshop). Now that I've dug out my work boots and leather whip (thanks, Daddy-O and "Nasty Nick's") and have begun researching amateur horse-training online, Kevin has started taking this little obsession of mine seriously. There's talk of buying more land after we sell my co-op space in Emeryville, CA. We could fence in a separate area to let the horses (what horses?!) roam free in the desert-ocean landscape. I could lead Leche con Leche by my whip's tail down the road to our land -- I'm KIDDING! I'd stop buying shoes the rest of my life to buy them! Wouldn't you?? Just look at these faces!!

These two animals pictured above are actually being fostered by mi vecina, MaryAnn, who also claims to know nothing about horses, but simply had compassion for Estrella (left) who was attacked at birth by a pack of neighborhood dogs ~ la banda de perros. Her mother Fresa (right) is very protective of her, as is their foster mother, thankfully! Fostering means MaryAnn pays to feed, "water", and house (read: look after them in the empty "se vende" lot adjoining hers) these two animals year-round for nothing in exchange ~ well, there's el amor! I bring these two sweeties carrots for treats; they do get daily heno (hay), agua (H20) and un poco de sombra, but still they're always happy to see me on my way to the less fortunate caballos en el barrio.

This "FriendsGiving" (Día de Acción de Gracias, en español), I am thankful to have connected with the seis o siete caballos I've met here in Baja so far. The thought of them literally gets me out of the bed in the morning when I'm in pain and feeling a little bit sorry for myself. When I see those horses pulling toward me on their ropes I'm reminded to count my blessings for comida, mi casa y mi libertad. I really am living the dream.

At the bottom of this page you'll find a SUPPORT button that takes you to our donation page. You can buy a bail of alfalfa for these sweet animals and I will personally deliver it! Stay tuned for more opportunities to help feed, clean, and house Baja's often-neglected or mistreated animals. Thank you very much. MUCHAS GRACIAS!